Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cranford Part One

It's time for part one of the Cranford read-a-hosted by Allie at A Literary Odyssey. I've heard lots of things about Cranford and Elizabeth Gaskell's other works, but have never actually read anything by her. Ryan took one look at the cover of my copy and said, "What is that? Why are you reading something so boring?" I said, "It's Judi Dench! DAME Judi Dench! It's clearly going to be awesome." But I have to admit, I was a little nervous. A book about bunch of old ladies in a little bitty town gossiping? I'm wasn't sure how exciting this book would be.
The good news is that I love it! It's hilarious. The narrator cracks me up, as do all the ladies. They're quite entertaining. And Gaskell's writing style feels modern, more like you're reading a historical fiction novel than an actual novel from history if you know what I mean. The one time she used a term I wasn't familiar with, she defined it! It certainly wasn't what I was expecting from a Victorian novel, especially since she worked for Dickens and praises him in the opening chapter. That's actually a pretty funny scene, with two characters duking it out over Dickens vs. Samuel Johnson.

The book also starts out with an image of a cow dressed in grey flannel. It was trapped and removed most of it's hair and couldn't keep warm, so they dressed it in grey flannel. I keep picturing that and cracking up. My parents went a little crazy a few years ago and bought some land and some animals and have a few cows, so I keep thinking about driving up to their house and seeing a cow just standing there eating grass, wearing her flannel. And trying to imagine getting the cow to get into the flannel? Pretty funny.

I also liked it when the book talked about the ladies' views on eating oranges. They love them, but don't feel like they should eat them in front of others because the best way to eat them is basically just to suck on them, which is horribly messy and unladylike. I do the same thing! And I hate eating them for that reason. It was interesting to think about people thinking the same thing back in the 1840s.

Finally, I'm getting an extra kick out of this book because my Grandma totally lives in Cranford. She may live in a suburban neighborhood and not a tiny English village, but it's totally like Cranford. There's a bunch of older ladies (and a few men) who sit around and gossip and are all up in each other's business and know everything about what's going on. My Grandma had to get a new roof recently, and all the neighbors kept coming and spying on the workers and letting them know they were watching, like some sort of septuagenarian mafia. And my Grandma's a little bit particular, just like Miss Jenkyns, although not nearly so uptight! So, the book makes me think of her and that makes it a little bit more fun. If you're participating in the read-a-long, I hope you're enjoying it as much as I am!


  1. I never sucked on an orange, but it got me curious - such a vivid image!


    PS: Love the name of your cat: Optimus Prime. Hilarious! Hope you gave it to him because of the cartoons and not the movie...

  2. I forgot about the cow! I remember I was laughing out loud at that point and my husband gave me "the look." I love that she throws in little moments like that, full of humor and just lets the reader stumble on them when they come across them!

  3. Im glad your also enjoying it, I agree that it really isn't like the types of novel that the victorians were famous for. I find it a refreshing change from the normal victorian gothic.

  4. It was so much funnier than I was expecting. That cow, what a mental image.

  5. Love your review! I know some ladies who live in a real life Cranford, too. Optimus Prime?? My son would love that! Our cat's name is Leo. Not very creative, although his full name is Leonardo. There is a transformer named Leo Prime, now that I think of it...;)

  6. I've spent a good deal of time cracking up, too.
    It really is very funny and unexpected because I think I was expecting the Victorian heavy stuff.

  7. Glad everyone is enjoying it! And we did name Optimus Prime after the cartoons, before the movies came out. We had a Megatron too, but he passed away unfortunately. So now we have one funny named cat and one normal one, although Lucy is named after Lucy in the Chronicles of Narnia series.

  8. I think the scene that rivals the cow in flannel is when pussy eats the lace and pussy's mom feeds her an emetic. The cat vomits up the lace, and after some washing, the lady continues to wear it! Cat Puke Lace! It's so random; I do love it. Gaskell's sense of humor doesn't really come out in most of her other novels (although there was a scene in Wives and Daughters that made me do the "crazy lady laughing out loud on the bus" thing).

  9. I couldn't find your challenge post so I am leaving this here. Also, I have added this book to my TBR list:)

    Thank you so much for joining my challenge! I am looking very forward to seeing what you read:) Good Luck! I will be back to check on your progress!